Sojern Reveals First Of Its Kind ‘State of Destination Marketing 2024 Report’
SAN FRANCISCO – 20 November, 2023 – Sojern, the leading digital marketing platform built for travel, is excited to announce the launch of the “State of Destination Marketing 2024” report for destination marketing organizations (DMOs).
This first-of-its-kind report, produced through a partnership between Sojern and Digital Tourism Think Tank (DTTT), and supported by Brand USA, Destination Canada and the European Travel Commission, sheds light on the latest industry trends and challenges.
Based on insights from nearly 300 DMOs, government departments and affiliated tourism entities worldwide, it explores effective marketing strategies for engaging travelers and offers a glimpse into the future of destination marketing. Sojern commissioned this report to ensure its global destination clients have access to the most comprehensive marketing insights.
The report found that economic uncertainty, inflation, and the cost of living are all having a significant impact on strategies, with more than 50% of respondents considering these to be areas that require careful planning.
"As the travel industry undergoes rapid transformation, we remain committed to empowering destinations to navigate these changes effectively,” said Noreen Henry, Chief Revenue Officer, Sojern. “The insights uncovered in our report highlight destination marketers’ strategic priorities and overall approach to digital marketing, while also highlighting the significance of promoting sustainable and diverse tourism and meeting consumers' increasing desire for unique experiences. Working with strategic technology-powered partners like Sojern ensures success in an increasingly dynamic and competitive environment.”
Adopting Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Disrupting DMOs
AI is revolutionizing marketing and will have a monumental influence on how destinations market to travelers. According to the findings, DMOs anticipate that AI's impact will be most pronounced in content creation, with nearly half (49%) foreseeing significant impact. A growing number of AI tools are transforming creative processes, from long-form content to social media posts.
In addition, 40% of DMOs see significant potential in AI for predictive analysis and forecasting, 38% for data analysis and interpretation, and 37% for marketing content personalization. However, 71% are currently less confident and see little potential impact in AI’s ability to shape their teams' web, app and platform creation, and 63% in conversational marketing. DMOs perceive the least impact when it comes to AI on campaign creation and optimization (29%), creative media (25%) and web, app, platform creation (25%).
Prioritizing Digital Paid Media Investments as Meta Dominates
Ninety-six percent (%) of DMOs are making significant investments in paid media as an essential component in achieving their marketing objectives. Notably, 58% take an always-on approach, investing year round, while 38% invest seasonally and only 21% invest when specific opportunities arise. Social media advertising maintains its prominence, as does Search Engine Marketing (SEM), with 96% and 95% of DMOs rating them as having a high or average importance, respectively.
The most important channel formats comprise 94% native advertising or sponsored content, 85% display and video advertising, and 78% in-stream video ads. Additionally, Connected TV (CTV) shows promise, with more than half of respondents considering it of mid to high importance.
Instagram and Facebook remain the most important platforms when it comes to prioritizing media and content investment, with 45% and 35% respectively of all respondents ranking Meta’s channels as their top channel of importance. While TikTok has become a global sensation, media investment hasn't yet grown to the level some might expect, with only 5% ranking it as their most important channel.
Shifting Strategies Around Data and Privacy
Fifty-four percent of all respondents stated that data provides the most value in marketing planning. Demographic data (88%) is used most frequently to guide decisions, followed by behavioral data (79%). However, increased reliance on data also brings its challenges. Given the three most pressing obstacles to success are the lack of data integration across channels (52%), the high cost of acquiring data (46%) and limited access to quality data (42%), it becomes clear why demographic data currently serves as the primary proxy for decision making in digital marketing.
With Google’s deprecation of third-party cookies scheduled for mid-2024, 37% reported a significant impact, while 15% of respondents said that these changes have a small impact on their current strategies. DMOs are taking actions to mitigate the effects of these data privacy changes, with 60% planning to focus on social content and 58% prioritizing obtaining more first-party data. The report found that the inability to track the right data is a significant issue, with the importance of obtaining first-party data now higher than ever. DMOs can capitalize on the current focus on demographic data and data-related challenges by partnering with a trusted travel marketing expert who offers high quality data that can be seamlessly integrated and activated across channels and devices.
Prioritizing Environmental and Social Goals
DMOs are adapting their strategies in response to trends such as sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion. European DMOs are leading in prioritizing environmental sustainability (62% for climate change, 56% for biodiversity) compared to Canadian (29% for climate change, 24% for biodiversity) and US DMOs (8% for climate change, 33% for biodiversity).
Many DMOs are emphasizing both social diversity and sustainability in their strategies, with figures showing that 42% of all those surveyed prioritize gender equality, and 45% of European and 40% of US DMOs strongly prioritize accessibility for visitors with disabilities. Around 35% of all respondents said that LGBTQ+-specific strategies (i.e. sexual orientation) were strongly prioritized, with similar importance (34%) placed on promoting social and economic diversity.
Embracing Co-op Marketing Priorities
Seventy-eighty percent of global DMOs are actively investing in industry partner campaigns, or co-op marketing, a collaborative approach where DMOs partner with local business stakeholders to promote travel destinations.
Motivators for co-op campaigns include boosting overall marketing investment (58%), expanding audience reach (54%) and cost-sharing (46%). Notably, 70% of DMOs are embracing “full funnel” marketing campaign activities. As the travel industry keeps changing, DMOs need to remain adaptable, focus on data and cultivate robust capabilities with their destination marketing strategies.
To see the full survey methodology, download the “State of Destination Marketing 2024” report here.
Sojern is a leading travel marketing platform designed to boost growth and profitability for the travel industry. The Sojern Travel Marketing Platform is a set of easy-to-use software and services that delivers unrivaled traveler insight, intelligent audiences, multichannel activation and optimization, and a connected guest experience—all in one place. More than 10,000 travel marketers rely on our platform annually to find, attract, convert and engage travelers. Founded in 2007, Sojern is headquartered in San Francisco, California with teams in the Americas, Europe, Middle East and Africa, and Asia Pacific.
About the Digital Tourism Think Tank
The Digital Tourism Think Tank has been working for over a decade on digital transformation together with DMOs from across the globe. It is recognized by the industry as a leader in destination digital transformation and work with a wide range of destinations. DTTT Members are on the leading edge of change, creating more competitive destinations, underpinned by a strong approach to digital, putting sustainable innovation at the core of everything.
Dominican Today | November 23 2023.
Santo Domingo.- Foreign investors in the Dominican tourism industry highlight several key factors contributing to their decision to invest, including the country’s natural beauty, rich culture, legal security, and effective public-private collaboration. However, they also recognize challenges that the Dominican Republic faces in maintaining its tourism sector’s leadership, especially compared to long-established, profitable Caribbean markets like Cancun and Jamaica.
Abel Matutes Prats, President of Palladium Hotel Group, during the panel “Dominican tourism: vision of Spanish businessmen,” moderated by Simón Suárez of Puntacana Group, noted that while Dominican tourism has made extraordinary leaps in competitiveness, there is a need to focus beyond just arrival numbers. The emphasis should be on the value created and left in the community.
Key areas identified for maintaining leadership include tourism sustainability, territorial planning, specialized human resource training, and regulation of vacation rentals. These factors are crucial for ensuring that tourism development is balanced and beneficial to local communities.
Sabina Fluxá, Executive Director of the Iberostar Group, pointed out the growing influence of the American market in tourism investments, which has affected prices and rates in other Caribbean destinations competing with the Dominican Republic.
Gabriel Escarrer, President and CEO of Meliá Hotels International, emphasized the critical role of air connectivity in tourism competitiveness. He noted that flights to certain markets are significantly more expensive than to other competitor destinations. Escarrer suggested benchmarking to understand the Dominican Republic’s position relative to other destinations and to attract investments that are sustainable and add value in the long term.
Encarna Piñero, Executive Director of Grupo Piñero, stressed the importance of Spanish companies setting an example in sustainable practices. This involves balancing nature conservation, community engagement, and government collaboration.
In conclusion, Escarrer proposed the creation of a strategic tourism plan by the government, uniting efforts among tourist groups to outline a long-term vision for the Dominican Republic’s position as a tourist destination over the next decade. This plan would focus on sustainable growth and development in the tourism sector.
G. Torres | November 23, 2023
Artificial intelligence is transforming the way companies and entire industries, including travel and tourism, do business. Companies in market segments such as airlines, hotels, attractions and booking platforms are using AI for a variety of tasks, including gathering and analyzing customer data to predict customer behavior, make relevant recommendations, personalize services and enhance customer experience.
Advances in AI, including generative AI and machine learning (ML), are prompting the industry and consumers to reimagine what it means to plan, book and experience travel. Businesses must reassess how they develop and market their products and services, interact with consumers, and manage their operations.
Travel and tourism companies are using AI to automate and optimize the customer service process, enhance customer experience and operate more efficiently. AI-enabled technology shows up in a variety of places and functions, such as trip planners, booking platforms, check-in systems, automated baggage handlers, smart hotel rooms, face ID security, front desk robots and virtual tour guides.
AI-powered analytics are being used to gather and analyze data on customer preferences, predict behavior, make recommendations and personalize services such as hotel room temperature, lighting and entertainment.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the industry as a result of social distancing guidelines, travel restrictions, moratoriums, passport and visa delays, mandatory quarantines at some destinations, and other measures. Today, inflation and increased travel costs pose new challenges.
Nevertheless, travel and tourism remain one of the world’s largest industries, expected to continue growing as transportation systems improve, remote work allows more travel, and younger generations prioritize investing in memorable experiences over spending on goods.
The global travel and tourism market.
Defining the size and growth of the industry is challenging because it incorporates many industries, including transportation, accommodations, attractions and travel agencies. As a result, the data and statistics can vary.
In its 2023 economic impact research, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) projects the global market will reach $9.5 trillion this year, only 5% below pre-pandemic 2019 levels, when travel was at its highest. The sector’s gross domestic product contribution is expected to grow to $15.5 trillion by 2033, representing 11.6% of the global economy and employing 430 million people worldwide, almost 12% of the working population.
In the U.S. market, the industry is projected to be worth $3 trillion by 2033, including the amount spent in-country by international visitors and how much citizens of each country spend on their own travel abroad, Bloomberg reported, citing WTTC research.
According to Statista data, the market size of the global travel and tourism sector grew about 41% in 2022 over the previous year, after dropping dramatically at the onset of the pandemic, but remained below pre-pandemic levels at $2 trillion. By the end of 2023, it should grow to nearly $2.29 trillion, surpassing the peak reported in 2019.
In its 2023-2028 forecast, Research and Markets reported that the global leisure travel market size reached $804.4 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.75% to $1.33 trillion by 2028. Leisure travel involves casual trips for recreation, entertainment, relaxation and personal enjoyment.
Future Markets Insights predicts the global tourism market will grow at a CAGR of 5% to $17.1 trillion in 2032, while the International Air Transport Association estimates it will surpass $8.9 trillion by 2026, growing at an estimated CAGR of more than 3.1% from 2021 to 2026.
Based on these forecasts, by 2032 or 2033, the global travel and tourism market should be worth between $15.5 trillion and $17.1 trillion.
Travel and tourism in Puerto Rico.
Historically, Puerto Rico’s tourism industry has played a significant role in its economy, creating jobs and comprising somewhere between 2% and 10% (the data varies greatly) of the island’s GDP of about $113.4 billion (World Bank, 2022).
According to WorldData, tourism generated about $2.8 billion in Puerto Rico in 2021, representing 2.5% of its GDP and about 15% of all international tourism receipts in the Caribbean.
The travel and tourism industry has grown significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic, outpacing the U.S. mainland and other Caribbean destinations, Discover Puerto Rico reported. According to the local destination marketing organization, 2021, 2022 and 2023 will go on record as the best years Puerto Rico tourism has had in terms of visitor demand, lodging yields, tourism tax collections and leisure hospitality employment.
Earlier this year, Discover Puerto Rico announced a record-breaking 2022, reporting peaks in revenue, the number of incoming travelers and the number of people the industry employs. The organization also reported the following findings:
AI will have a hand in growth.
AI and e-commerce are expected to drive part of this growth.
Online sales will generate 74% of global revenue and 71% of U.S. revenue by 2027, Statista reported. The rapid integration of AI, big data analytics and the internet of things (IoT) in the tourism industry is propelling the market, R&M noted.
“AI is emerging as a pivotal component in the travel and tourism sector, transforming various aspects of the travel journey, from inspiration to the overall experience. AI’s role in the sector will grow exponentially by 2030,” R&M said in its report “Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Travel and Tourism.”
Travel is expected to grow at an average of 5.8% a year through 2032 – more than double the overall economy’s expected growth rate of 2.7%, global management consulting firm McKinsey said in its report, “The Promise of Travel in the Age of AI,” attributed to ongoing corporate travel recovery and consumer demand for unique experiences.
News is my Business requests for data and insights from local organizations regarding AI’s impact on Puerto Rico’s travel and tourism industry had not been provided at the time of publishing.
Travel agents are still in demand.
Despite the current and projected growth of AI in the industry, travel agents still have a job to do. The travel chaos caused by the pandemic led travelers to rely on agents to plan and book their trips.
Planning and booking a trip, especially a complex one, takes time and effort many people living busy lives don’t have. A 2023 American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) consumer survey found that 50% of travelers are more likely to use a travel adviser today than in the past. More than half, 54%, agreed that “a travel advisor can cut through some of the issues regarding airline fees.”
Travel agents are responsible for almost 77% of the total cruise bookings, 55% of air travel bookings and 73% of travel package bookings, according to Travel Technology & Solutions, a provider of travel agency tech tools.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of travel agents in the U.S. will grow 3% from 2022 to 2032, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
By Angela Symons & Shubham Koul | EuroNews Green | 22/11/2023
‘We are self-sufficient’: The Maldives' president says fortress islands will help to prevent climate migration.
Rising sea levels threaten to swamp the Maldives and the Indian Ocean archipelago is already out of drinking water. But the new president says he has scrapped plans to relocate citizens.
Instead, President Mohamed Muizzu promises the low-lying nation will beat back the waves through ambitious land reclamation and building islands higher.
Environmental and rights groups have warned such could even exacerbate flooding risks.
The Maldives is on the front line of the climate crisis.
An upmarket holiday destination, the Maldives is famed for its white sand beaches, turquoise lagoons and vast coral reefs. In recent years, the chain of 1,192 tiny islands has found itself on the frontlines of the climate crisis, battling for survival.
Former president Mohamed Nasheed began his administration 15 years ago warning citizens they might become the world's first environmental refugees needing relocation to another country.
He wanted the Maldives to start saving to buy land in neighbouring India, Sri Lanka or even far away in Australia.
But Muizzu, 45, while asking for almost €500 million in foreign funding to protect vulnerable coasts, said his citizens will not be leaving their homeland.
“If we need to increase the area for living or other economic activity, we can do that,” Muizzu told news agency AFP, speaking from the crowded capital Male, which is ringed with concrete sea walls. “We are self-sufficient to look after ourselves.”
Will residents of the Maldives be forced to relocate?
The tiny nation of Tuvalu this month inked a deal to give citizens the right to live in Australia when their Pacific homeland is lost beneath the seas.
But Muizzu said the Maldives would not follow that route.
“I can categorically say that we definitely don't need to buy land or even lease land from any country,” Muizzu said.
Sea walls will ensure risk areas can be “categorised as a safe island”, he said.
But 80 per cent of the Maldives is less than a metre above sea level. And while fortress-like walls ringing tightly-packed settlements can keep the waves at bay, the fate of the beach islands the tourists come for are uncertain.
Tourism accounts for almost one-third of the economy, according to the World Bank.
Nasheed's predecessor, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was the first to ring the alarm of the possible “death of a nation”, warning the United Nations in 1985 of the threat posed by rising sea levels linked to climate change.
The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned in 2007 that rises of 18 to 59 centimetres would make the Maldives virtually uninhabitable by the end of the century.
‘Every island in the Maldives has run out of fresh water’
Shauna Aminath, Maldives' former Environment Minister
The warning lights are already flashing red.
Gayoom's fear of his country running out of drinking water has already come true, as rising salt levels seep into land, corrupting potable water.
“Every island in the Maldives has run out of fresh water,” said Shauna Aminath, 38, the Environment Minister until last week, when Muizzu's government took power.
Almost all of the 187 inhabited islets in the archipelago depend on expensive desalination plants, she told AFP.
“Finding ways as to how we protect our islands has been a huge part of how we are trying to adapt to these changes,” Aminath said.
Can sea walls and reclamation projects save the Maldives?
The capital Male, where a third of the country's 380,000 citizens are squeezed onto a tiny island, is “one of the most densely populated pieces of land in the world” with 65,700 people per square kilometre, according to the environment ministry.
A giant sea wall already surrounds the city, but Muizzu said there is potential to expand elsewhere.
Reclamation projects have already increased the country's landmass by about 10 percent in the past four decades, using sand pumped onto submerged coral platforms, totalling 30 square kilometres.
Muizzu, a British-educated civil engineer and former construction minister for seven years, played a key part in that, overseeing the expansion of the artificial island of Hulhumale.
Linked to the capital by a Chinese-built 1.4-kilometre bridge, with tower blocks rising high over the blue seas, Hulhumale is double the area of Male, home to about 100,000 people.
But environmental and rights groups warn that, while reclamation is needed, it must be done with care.
Maldives reclamation projects often ignore environmental regulations.
In a recent report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused the authorities of failing to implement their own environmental regulations, saying reclamation projects were “often rushed” and lacked proper mitigation policies.
It gave the example of an airport on Kulhudhuffushi, where 70 per cent of the island's mangroves were “buried”, and a reclamation project at Addu which damaged the coral reefs fisherman depended on.
“The Maldives government has ignored or undermined environmental protection laws, increasing flooding risks and other harm to island communities,” HRW said.
Ahmed Fizal, who heads the environmental campaign group Marine Journal Maldives (MJM), said he feared politicians and businessmen saw shallow lagoons as potential reclamation sites to turn a quick profit.
“You have to ask ‘what is the limit, what is the actual cost of reclamation?’”, he said.
TTG Asia | 20 November, 2023
Come next year, travellers are expected to make trip decisions based on screen inspirations, affordable duplicates, concert draws and AI assistance, say Expedia Group’s Unpack ’24 study that involved 20,000 respondents worldwide.
For 2023, Expedia predicted travellers would turn to television sets and movie screens for travel inspiration. They did, and the trend shows no signs of stopping in 2024. More than half of travellers say they have researched or booked a trip to a destination after seeing it on a TV show or movie, and one in four admit that TV shows and films are even more influential on their travel plans than they were before. In fact, travellers say TV shows influence their travel decisions more than Instagram, TikTok and podcasts.
Expedia search data indicates a similar trend. Following the release of Wednesday on Netflix, Expedia saw a 150% increase in travel searches for Romania. Searches to Paris increased 200% after Emily in Paris debuted its previous season.
Given the popularity of this travel trend, Expedia compiled its first-ever Set-jetting Forecast predicting what entertainment-inspired destinations travellers will head to in 2024, based on upcoming show and film releases and travel data from the Expedia Group platform.
Expedia’s 2024 destinations of the year are destination dupes — places that are a little unexpected, sometimes more affordable, and every bit as delightful as the tried-and-true destinations travellers love.
The 2024 destination dupes all experienced a notable uptick in searches over the past year. In fact, global searches for the Top 5 destinations on the list more than doubled YoY.
In 2023, the cultural impact of the Eras and Renaissance tours was undeniable, driving ticket sales as well as travel and tourism. Expedia predicts that tour tourism will continue to thrive in 2024. Nearly 70% of survey respondents say they are more likely to travel to a concert outside their own town, with over 40% saying they’d travel for a concert as an excuse to visit a new place. In a new twist to tour tourism, perhaps driven by ticket prices, 30% of travellers say they would travel outside of their home city for a concert because tickets were cheaper elsewhere. Unexpected places on Expedia’s list of top tour tourism destinations are Kuala Lumpur, Edmonton, Canada, and Mexico City.
Gen gen AI.
While generative AI tools like ChatGPT took centre stage in 2023, only 6% of travellers used it to plan their trip. In 2024, Expedia predicts the generation of generative AI travellers will come of age and fully embrace this tech throughout their travel journey. In fact, survey data reveals that half of travellers are interested in using generative AI to plan their next trip, and the percentage is even higher among Singaporeans (68%).
What drives this trend is generative AI’s ability to simplify planning and shopping through a conversation. Nearly 40% of travellers say they would use this tech to find the perfect stay, 35% would plan activities and things to do, 33% would compare flight options, and 20% of travellers would change or cancel their travel plans.
IATA | 9th November 2023
Geneva - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that the strong post-pandemic passenger traffic trend continued in September.
Total traffic in September 2023 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) rose 30.1% compared to September 2022. Globally, traffic is now at 97.3% of pre-COVID levels.
Domestic traffic hit a new high for the month of September, as traffic rose 28.3% versus September 2022 and exceeded the September 2019 level by 5.0%.
International traffic climbed 31.2% compared to the same month a year ago. All markets saw double-digit percentage gains year on year. International RPKs reached 93.1% of September 2019 levels.
“The third quarter of 2023 ended on a high note, with record domestic passenger demand for the month of September and continued strong international traffic,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.
Air Passenger Market in Detail
International Passenger Markets
Asia-Pacific airlines had a 92.6% increase in September 2023 traffic compared to September 2022, continuing to lead the regions in terms of annual improvement. Capacity climbed 82.1% and the load factor increased by 4.5 percentage points to 82.5%.
European carriers’ September traffic climbed 15.7% versus September 2022. Capacity increased 14.9%, and load factor edged up 0.6 percentage points to 85.5%.
Middle Eastern airlines saw a 26.6% increase in September traffic compared to a year ago. Capacity rose 23.7% and load factor climbed 1.9 percentage points to 81.8%.
North American carriers had an 18.9% traffic rise in September 2023 versus the 2022 period. Capacity increased 18.0%, and load factor improved 0.6 percentage points to 85.6%.
Latin American airlines’ traffic rose 26.8% compared to the same month in 2022. September capacity climbed 24.7% and load factor rose 1.4 percentage points to 85.8%.
African airlines posted a 28.1% traffic increase in September 2023 versus a year ago. Capacity was up 29.9% and load factor slipped 1.0 percentage points to 72.6%.
Domestic Passenger Markets
China’s domestic market continued to perform, with demand up 168.7% year over year. This growth however is measured from a low base in September 2022, when domestic travel restrictions were reintroduced in some Chinese provinces.
Japan’s domestic traffic rebounded strongly from the impact of typhoons in August, as RPKs rose 19.9% compared to September 2022.
Air Passenger Market Overview - September 2023
The Bottom Line
“With the end of 2023 fast approaching, we can look back on a year of strong recovery in demand as passengers took full advantage of their freedom to travel. There is every reason to believe that this momentum can be maintained in the New Year, despite economic and political uncertainties in parts of the world. But we need the whole value chain to be ready. Supply chain issues in the aircraft manufacturing sector are unacceptable. They have held back the recovery and solutions must be found. The same holds true for infrastructure providers, particularly air navigation service providers. Equipment failures, staffing shortages and labor unrest made it impossible to deliver the flying experience our customers expect. A successful 2024 needs the whole value chain to be fully prepared to handle the demand that is coming,” said Walsh.
> View the September Air Passenger Market Analysis (pdf)
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.